In a churchyard by a river
Lazing in the haze of midday,
Laughing in the grasses and the graves.
Yellow bird you are not long in
Singing and in flying on,
In laughing and in leaving.
Willow weeping in the water,
Waving to the river daughters,
Swaying in the ripples and the reeds.
On a trip to Cirrus Minor
Saw a crater in the sun
A thousand miles of moonlight later.
Although some of these lyrics have been called 'Zen' lyrics by at least one misguided soul, they
in fact owe much to an anthology of Chinese poetry called 'Poems of the Late T'ang' by A.C. Graham,
published by Penguin in 1965. After this anthology, Professor Graham went on to display his powers
as an expert in ancient Chinese philosophy, including the works of Zhuang-zi, the Daoist (Taoist)
philosopher who dreamt he was a butterfly. Some of Professor Graham's work on ancient Chinese philosophy
is so ground-breaking that it is recommended reading even for Chinese scholars doing research into their
own philosophical tradition. But for me, *Professor Graham's* most beautiful work remains these
translations of a number of major and minor poets of the later years of the Tang dynasty (the eighth
and ninth centuries), the tail end of a period universally acknowledged as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry.
Below are the Chinese sources of the main lines from 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' and some
from 'Cirrus Minor'.
Li He (Li Ho): The Daemonic Genius
'The River of Heaven turns in the night and floats the stars around'
'Witness the man who raved at the wall as he wrote his questions to Heaven'
'On the Great Wall, a thousand miles of moonlight' (Cirrus Minor)
(Contributed by Andy & Mogg - November 2002)